Wednesday, 31 August 2011

Ibec on workers' absenteeism and that organisation's own part in our downfall

Once in a blue moon you might see a letter that is worth reading while flicking through Herald Metro on your way to work.  

I'm not joking, it's one of the few things I get to read these days between one thing and another. 

Maybe Ibec would consider setting up a special O'Stakhanov Award for model workers such as my good self, who work all the hours natural forces send - increased hours with pay cuts - and had only had one sick day in the past two years or so?   And all without complaint.  Actually, scrub that last bit.

But what about Ibec - the logical successor to William Martin Murphy's ideal of organised employers?   It  was whinging last week about the alleged high rate if absenteeism in Irish workplaces, and how it was crippling the country. 

Which brings us back to the Metro Herald and the following letter from Bruce.   I haven't been able to check any of the figures he quotes - too busy working Ibec, you see - but it looks as though he has put a bit of thought and research into what he has written. 

Duvet days?  I like the sound of that...

I see Ibec has been harping on about absenteeism costing employers €1.5 billion per annum with employees missing 5.98 days per year, stating the issue “affects the wider economy through loss of potential output and increases spending on social security.

Well that’s a bit rich, given that Ibec members made a run on the Irish banks last year - leading to the tune of €78 billion in corporate deposits leaving the country and leading to the bailout in November. To cover this, the Irish State borrowed €60 billion and used the State Pension Reserve to balance the rest.

Interest has been reduced on this amount to 3.5 per cent, which equals interest alone of €2.1bn to the taxpayer and €4 billion in capital repayment, meaning the actions of Ibec members in 2010 will cost the taxpayer €6.1 billion in 2012.

Add to that the €270 million interest the State would have earned on the Pension Reserve Fund, bringing the total close to €6.3 billion. Based on 1.8 million people still working in the Irish economy, that works out at approximately €3,500 per working person, per annum, in taxes to pay off the bailout.

Given that this organisation is calling for increases in spending on education and the cutting of pay to make us more competitive, while campaigning for the 12.5% corporation tax to remain the same (in other words, everyone else pays except them), they are hypocrites of the highest order.

We taxpayers should have 25 ‘duvet days’ to cost them as much as they are costing us.

Bruce (having a lie-in today)

Well, Ibec.  Pot?  Kettle?

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Monday, 29 August 2011

"Debt forgiveness" for some mortgage holders? Genuine need or putting on the poor mouth?

What is behind the current media-fuelled hysteria around the trumped-up topic of debt forgiveness?

Last Thursday The Irish Times published a letter from an MP MacDomhnaill of Tralee, which is pasted below:


Sir, – As I write this letter I am hoping that sleep can provide me with some escape from the anxiety and pain that the economic situation is wreaking on me and my family.

Until recently I have been able to meet my mortgage repayments and provide for my young children. At this juncture, seeing as the part-time work on which I depended has entirely ceased, I have found myself and my loved ones having to cope with a new torment – hunger.

Today I have had nothing to give my children only bread and cereal. My dole payment is completely servicing my mortgage and my savings have run dry on essentials. I dread what each day will bring.

The wolf that I have been keeping from the door has finally moved in. – Yours, etc.

Then on Friday, the same paper carried a piece by Rosita Boland, featuring extracts from a telephone interview with the letter writer, in which he described how his wife noticed one of the children was reduced to eating bits of (Lidl brand) Cornflakes packet in order to stave off the hunger.

Sorry, but I can't swallow this - no more than I would some bargain brand cereal packaging.

The idea of hunger and famine is a recurring one in Irish discourse, and the image of a child eating bits of cardboard to stay alive, in order for mum and dad to pay the mortgage, is one that will wring many a tear from the uncritical folkish eye. It is the hungry grass all over again, with the prospect of eviction (read repossession) thrown in.  It is like a Flann O'Brien parody.

There is no reason why anyone who lost their job should be paying all of their mortgage payments to go without food. As far as I am aware, there are mortgage interest supplements for people in such a position, and the banks have been readily restructuring mortgage repayments for some years now.

Conor Pope, in the same edition of the paper as Boland's piece, made the observation that many of the "new poor are resolutely middle-class" and might find the idea of looking for help or advice in the shape of the Money Advice and Budgeting Service "a degrading step and one which is beyond them".

But to read yesterday's alarmist articles in the Sunday Independent you would swear that starving families are being turfed out of their homes all over the country, with the residue of cardboard-tainted saliva encrusted on the mouths of their ragged children.

This is simply not happening. Even last Wednesday's Irish Times editorial pointed out that "there is abundant evidence that debtors and creditors are themselves working problems out on a case by case basis" and the number of home repossessions in Ireland "remains small in absolute terms or in comparison to Britain, where economic conditions are far more benign than here".

Ironically, much of the current debate was triggered by Morgan Kelly's recent comments on former high-rollers who took out unsustainable mortgages of one and more million euro. Professionals who "could barely afford to buy you a cup of coffee now".

Given the way things work in Ireland, and how those from the more privileged classes always come up smelling of roses - even after enduring a temporary dip in the manure - one wonders are these the movers and shakers fueling the media agenda?

Not so much starving kiddies as dentists, architects and, erm, perhaps journalists, who took out silly loans during the property boom madness and are now - horror of horrors -  in negative equity?    

Sure. They can have debt forgiveness if they are prepared to walk away from their aspirational properties and hand in the keys - otherwise it should be a matter of renegotiating terms with their lenders.  The same should apply to their buy-to-let portfolios. 

Meanwhile genuine cases - such as ordinary people down on their luck and making an effort to pay something back - should be afforded the necessary latitude to restructure.  Which is exactly what is happening at present.

Blanket "debt forgiveness" should not be a facility for those who can pay, but won't, to wriggle out of their commitments -  while keeping the assets they outbid the rest of us on as they pushed prices skywards during the boom.

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Friday, 26 August 2011

Partizan Belgrade v Shamrock Rovers.

Congrats to Shamrock Rovers for reaching the group stages of the Europa Cup, where they will compete against teams as elevated - and well remunerated - as Spurs.  As far as I am aware, they are the first team from the League of Ireland (and possibly the Irish League too) that have managed to do so.

My old man and his old man, mind you, were Shelbourne through and through.  The old man took me to the Shels games in Tolka Park and Harold's Cross as a kid.  I, of course, preferred the glamour of Match of the Day and Leeds United, one of whose midfield generals was a certain Johnny Giles.   

Turncoat that I was, and much to the old man's disappointment,  I spent quite a few Sunday afternoons on the Glenmalure terraces with the kid bro after Giles wound down to become manager of Rovers back in the late 70s.  

For a long time Rovers were homeless after their owners sold off their ground in Milltown to build apartments.  Eventually, and after much bitter opposition from a local GAA club, they succeeded in getting their own ground in Tallaght. 

So, I hope they make a mint in the Europa Cup, and strike a blow for world football in Ireland... or the "garrison game" and the "corner boys game" as the backwoodsmen of the Christian Brothers, the GAA, and their ilk labeled it.

And what an equalising goal at 1:43.  

Johnny Giles himself would have been proud.

Partizan Belgrade v Shamrock Rovers video uploaded by TaLaHoOp . Big thanks.

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Wednesday, 24 August 2011

Bishop Boyce claims Catholic Church attacked by secular and Godless culture...

"Catholic Bishop of Raphoe Dr Philip Boyce has said the Catholic Church is being attacked by the arrows of a secular and Godless culture.

Dr Boyce also said it was rocked from the inside by the sins and crimes of priests and consecrated people.

An independent review of diocesan files relating to child abuse allegations against priests is nearing completion in the bishop's Donegal diocese.

He has promised to publish the findings of the National Board for Safeguarding Children in the Catholic Church when he receives them, which is likely to be next month.

Bishop Boyce made his remarks last Saturday but they were not released to journalists until yesterday evening.

He told worshippers at the Novena at the Marian shrine in Knock, Co Mayo that they were living through a testing moment of history and a spiritual dark night now engulfs the church.

The bishop urged Catholics to act hopefully and with patience and predicted that the church would rise again."   (RTE news, this morning).

Well, it is just a pity that a "secular and Godless" culture did not exist in Ireland when the abuses perpetrated by the powerful, State-influencing, Catholic Church were in full swing.  

When the bishops whispered into the ears of elected politicians who twiddled their rosary beads in their pockets as they genuflected to do the church's bidding.  As did much of the Irish population who sometimes even colluded in sending children off to the Magdalene Laundries or the industrial schools, as they tugged their forelocks before the unholy trinity of priests, police and politicians. 

I am not quite convinced that a "secular and godless" culture exists even now in Ireland, but public attitudes are not quite so unquestioning and prostrate before the still-powerful Catholic Church, which continues to run 90% of our schools.    Yet, a 2009 poll by the Iona Institute asserted that 65% still go to mass at least once a month, while the Irish public attitude to abortion rights continues to be misinformed by Catholic ideas of conception.

Education Minister, Ruairi Quinn, will begin negotiations with Catholic Church representatives next month in an attempt to get them to pay half the compensation bill to those they abused. 

It might be timely for him to insist that schools, in our supposedly secular and Godless society, are finally taken out of the Church's control.

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Monday, 22 August 2011

The road to nowhere at the Phoenix Park Racecourse

Spotted this one while out for a scenic walk down the Navan Road during the weekend. 

You will see the sign saying "local access" to denote a road to the northern section of the Phoenix Park Racecourse development which was never started, let alone completed.   You can get a better idea from the aerial shot below, taken from the chopper this morning while on the way to Spar for a carton of milk.  No, that's sooo 2006 - it was Google Maps, actually. 

The Irish Follies Trust quotes Mariga Guinness as claiming that Ireland had "more follies to the acre than anywhere else in the world".   I think she might have been referring to the decorative variety of building, without any obvious utility, many of which were built to provide employment for the poor during the famine years. 

The Oxford English Dictionary defines such buildings thus:

"A costly ornamental building with no practical purpose, especially a tower or mock-Gothic ruin built in a large garden or park." 

Here is an example of one at Leixlip:

Then there is the alternative definition, perhaps more appropriate for Irish follies such as the development above, and the numerous ghost estates blighting the country:

"Lack of good sense; foolishness:  A foolish act, idea, or practice"

We definitely have more of those than anywhere else in the world.

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Friday, 19 August 2011

Solheim Cup accommodation - Irish investors seek gullible fools

The following article (in green) by Conor Pope appeared in yesterday's Irish Times. It demonstrates that the gap between reality and fantasy in the mind of the Irish property investor can still be measured in microns.

In a nutshell, those who bought investment apartments and semi-ds in godforsaken hellholes in the commuter belt of Dublin are looking to rent them out to golfing enthusiasts due to visit our little land for something called the Solheim Cup.

Apparently Paddy and Mary think unsuspecting, cash-rich (and no doubt colourfully dressed) foreigners will give them up to €5,100 for the privilege of staying in their two-bedroom apartment.

Hilarious. The idea of someone forking out 5 grand to forgo their villa with indoor swimming pool in Munich, in order to live in a pokey Irish investor apartment for a week, displays an incredible stupidity on the part of would-be Irish  letters. They have no idea of standards elsewhere.

I hope Morgan Kelly is not talking about debt forgiveness for these idiots.

THE OWNERS of houses and apartments across Co Meath, which normally rent for less than €1,000 a month, are attempting to cash in on next month’s Solheim Cup golf match between the US and Europe in Killeen Castle by offering them for rent for as much as €15,000 for one week.

Anyone hoping to make a quick buck out of the prestigious golf tournament is likely to be disappointed, however. Local auctioneers and tourism officials said yesterday there was “absolutely no way” people travelling from overseas for the event would pay anything close to the amounts being sought.

A “modern, spacious two-bedroom apartment” in Ashbourne, Co Meath has a price tag of €5,100 for the week, while a three-bed house in the same town is available for €9,000. A four-bed house on the outskirts of Navan is up for grabs for €11,000, and a five-bed house in Trim is €15,000.

The prices are reminiscent of the Ryder Cup, which took place in Co Kildare in 2006. At that time, relatively modest semis and bungalows within a 40km radius of the K-Club were being advertised from €600 up to €30,000 for a week or two-week period. Take-up at that time for private lettings was also pretty slow.

This week there were close to 100 apartments and houses listed on a site which is unaffiliated with any tourism authority or the competition organisers. It is charging people €95 for each listing.

Local auctioneer Maureen Rafter said the chances of anyone being able to command anything close to the prices being quoted for their properties were remote. “Bless their little hearts but these prices are totally aspirational,” she told The Irish Times.

“We have been approached by several people with lovely houses which they want to put up for rent. They are asking if we have any potential clients, but the reality is we have yet to be approached by anyone looking for accommodation,” she said.

James Brennan of Meath Tourism said: “We don’t believe there is a market for these properties at all. It is mad stuff and we have nothing to do with it and the Solheim Cup organisers have nothing to do with it.

“There is still accommodation available in the county, and hotels in the county are at 80 per cent occupancy now,” Mr Brennan added.

“If something looks too good to be true then the chances are it is too good to be true and that is the case here. We would be very disappointed if anyone paid these kinds of prices.”

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Wednesday, 17 August 2011

Micheal O Muircheartaigh for president now, is it? Bring on Terry Wogan.

Just as one RTE “personality” - in the highly irritating form of Gay Byrne - reveals to an expectant nation that he won’t be running for the Irish presidency, another appears on the scene.

This time it is ex-GAA commentator Micheal O Muircheartaigh. 80 years old, Gaelic-speaking, GAA-loving, and a familiar voice to the faithful over “the wireless” for decades. Bloody hell… they will be exhuming Dev next.

And what is it with these RTE “personalities”? Morning Ireland gave O’Muirchearthaigh an indulgent interview yesterday, during which he pondered aloud whether he would put himself forward for nomination. What kind of news was that?

Furthermore, what kind of a public broadcaster feels it is newsworthy to interview its old boys on the subject of the presidency at the drop of a check cap?  Maybe RTE feels that its “personalities” have been in our faces for so long that we'll think nothing of another seven years. Assuming they have another seven years in them.

Tell you what. If we must have an Irish broadcaster as president we might as well have Terry Wogan.  At least he is articulate, intelligent, and was talented enough to be a big fish – in a successful broadcasting career spanning decades – outside of the little pond that is Ireland.  

How many from the Montrose spawning-bed of mediocrity could have done the same?

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Monday, 15 August 2011

Dana for president? Takes all kinds of everything, it seems.

While we are talking about the presidency - and breathing a sigh of relief that Gaybo is not going to run for the Aras (Irish president's house) after all - now we can concentrate on Dana.

Dana, younger readers might not know, won the Eurovision for Ireland back in 1970 with a song called "All Kinds of Everything".  It was considered a great achievement at the time by the powers that be, rather than an embarrassment. See below.

If Dana had stuck to singing twee songs, it might just have been forgiveable.  Since 1970, however, the Derry warbler has metamorphosed into a right-wing, anti-choice, Catholic "values" conservative.  She did not manage to get a nomination for the last election, in 2004, and only got 13.5% of the vote in 1997. 

A reader, John, sent in this link which shows Dana singing on a far-right US religious channel called EWTN.  In the video - which is probably the most excruciating I have ever seen - Dana intercedes in a duet with a rather portly Jesus, playing the role of a woman who has had an abortion.  It is so bad, musically, that Andrew Lloyd Webber might be envious.

Dana, of course, believes Irish women should not have the option of termination in their own country, and should be compelled to get on the boat/plane to England or Holland.  That way she - and her ilk - can delude themselves that abortion does not exist in Ireland.

Have a look at this video, but have a sick bag handy. 

More worryingly, John also sent a link to a site called  which features a Facebook campaign by an 18-year old who supports Dana's presidential campaign on the basis that she will "bring this country back to its golden age"-

What??? With 18-year-olds like that, what does the future hold?

Tomorrow belongs to them. 

They are welcome to it, the arseholes.

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Saturday, 13 August 2011

'President' Gay Byrne - "we are being run by mad people in Brussels."

Or - do we really want a mad person from RTE as president?

I turned on the news the other day to be greeted by the crabby little face of Gay Byrne fielding questions on his possible candidacy for the Irish presidential election. 

“We are being run by maaad people in Brussels” he opined, as property developer, Harry Crosbie, made a beeline towards him to pledge his support.

“Maaad people in Brussels”.  Is that right, Gaybo?  Well, there's me thinking we were run by maaad people in Ireland – run into the ground.  Don’t go blaming the EU for the mess our dodgy political class, their developer/builder cronies and the fools who voted for them, made of the country.

It was not the EU who introduced the tax shelters and incentives and kept them going right through the property boom years. It was not the EU who cut capital gains tax from 40% to 20% after we joined the Euro. It was not the EU swarming like files around shit at every new apartment launch in a bid to get further and further into debt.

Sure Gay, it can't have been nice watching your bank shares plummet and your pension take a hit - but maybe you should direct your bile at targets other than the EU?  Your own bad decisions perhaps?  Speaking of which – don’t run for president... the whole thing is an awful enough joke as it is.

Sure, the idiot Irish public might well vote you in  – which, in itself, speaks volumes - but it really would be a bad idea.   Just enjoy your retirement, and let us enjoy it too.

 It might be more frugal than you anticipated, but you’ll still be better off than many.

Next up: Dana's presidential bid.

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Wednesday, 10 August 2011

London's Burning - riots carry a special resonance for Irish who lived there

"London's burning", as the old Clash song went.  It might have taken 34 years for that statement to come true, but it certainly has.  

So there goes that stereotype of the "reserved", law-abiding Brits and the "rebellious" law-deriding, Irish then.  If there is anywhere in Europe that people should be out in the streets, chucking Molotovs around and making the coppers work for their overtime,  it's here in Ireland, rather than across the water.

But dropping the facetiousness for a moment, it really is alarming.  The first riots followed several hours after a peaceful protest in Tottenham which centred on an armed suspect being shot dead by police in the area, but after that it just seemed to take on the qualities of a craze - with a bit of looting thrown in, of course. 

The strange thing, looking from here in Ireland, is that some relatively affluent areas have been affected - Ealing for example.  Then there's Wood Green - a place I have fond memories of, as I passed my driving test there. 

But what about Peckham? That place was scary 25 years ago when I went to do a 9-year stint in London as an economic migrant.  Mind you, I was in a squat for several weeks with these middle-class types from lovely comfortable homes in Dublin who were slumming it for a bit  -  I'm sure they had their poor mums and dads climbing the walls.

For my part, I'd had enough of living in bad housing all my life as a kid (violin music here please) so I was only too keen to get out and get some decent surroundings for myself.  An incident whereby we were chased from a squat when its rightful owners came to move in - it had been allotted, unbeknownst to us - probably hastened that decision.

Eventually I got a flat in Streatham before deciding that South London was not for me.  So north of the Thames it was for a one-and-a-half year stint in Finsbury Park, before spending the best part of seven years in Stratford, East London, in the Borough of Newham - one of London's poorest.  That's where they are holding the Olympics next year, so that is nice to see - assuming the whole lot doesn't go up in smoke first.

London was good.  People were not as parochial there as in Ireland and they were friendly enough, considering the size of the city.  I worked with local yokels and most of them were sound as pounds.  I even had a season in the Sunday League as a crap central defender in a crap team that got beaten 7-0 every week.    So watching all that is going on over there carries an extra resonance.  

Let's hope they can get a lid on it soon.  Ordinary Londoners - native and otherwise - should not have to suffer their city being destroyed around them.

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Monday, 8 August 2011

Morgan Kelly - property market "very far from bottom"

Morgan Kelly, UCD Professor of Economics, has been given the sobriquet of "Doctor Doom" by sections of the Irish media.    While other economists were predecting "soft landings" for the Irish property market - and the wider economy - Kelly was predicting 70% price drops. 

As things stand, it looks like he was right on the money.  So far from being Ireland's "pessimistic" economist, he is its most realistic.  

Another thing about Kelly is that he is not tied to the interests of any commercial or financial group.  His only motivation, I should imagine, is to get his predictions correct - therefore confirming his own competence and analysis. 

So what he has to say is always worth a read.  Such as the following in today's Irish Times.

"Irish property prices have yet to hit bottom and as a result the final bill for bailing out the banks is likely to be in the region of €90 billion to €100 billion, economist Morgan Kelly said last night.

In his Hubert Butler Lecture to the Kilkenny Arts Festival, Mr Kelly said: "we are very far from the bottom" of the property market and added it would take a decade for the economy to recover from the fallout.

While prices had fallen by 50 per cent, he said “almost no transactions were taking place at that price” and with unsold properties starting to accumulate, Mr Kelly said “we are very far from the bottom of the market”.

He also estimated Ireland’s national debt would rise to between €240 billion and €250 billion by 2015, far higher than the current Government estimates of €200 billion. He said that there was no way the country could repay this.

The UCD economist said the Irish economy would require a decade to recover from the current crisis.

Addressing the extent of property price inflation, Mr Kelly said that by 2007, “we were building half as many houses as Britain which is 15 times our size”. A consequence of this building boom was that the price of an average Dublin home cost “15 times the average industrial wage”.

Mr Kelly also said banks had become aware of the problems in the Irish property market in 2006 when there was a fall in the number of people taking out mortgages. Despite this, he claimed many bank economists were telling people at the time that there would be a “soft landing” so they would continue buying houses.

Mr Kelly described the bank guarantee that followed as “Cowen and Lenihan’s idea of shock and awe,” which, designed to frighten speculators, turned out to be “shocking and awful” for the country.

He said the real mistake, however, was not passing the guarantee, but sticking with it.

The economist said Central Bank governor Patrick Honohan could have walked way from the deal but decided that the losses were manageable.

Mr Kelly said the next problem Irish banks were likely to face was “organised opposition to repayment” with the possibility of some “Michael Davitt-type figure” emerging.

Referring to the euro zone debt crisis, Mr Kelly said: “I think eventually it will be solved” as it was in Germany’s benefit to remain in the euro.

Predicting “very large ECB loans to Ireland, Spain and Italy,” Mr Kelly said even if Ireland were to receive favourable terms the country faced very deep problems.

Mr Kelly described as “catastrophic” the recent US spending deal that allowed the debt ceiling to be raised, but avoided raising taxes to try and plug the widening deficit, and said "as the US goes under that will hit Ireland very, very badly."

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Friday, 5 August 2011

Dublin Speed Bumps to be "repaired" for €210,000

A reader, Sam, emailed me the above clip from the Herald which reported on Dublin City Council's bill of €210,000 to "repair" speed bumps it blighted the city with between 6 and 12 years ago.  Apparently there are 156 of these things in their domain, though it seems like a lot more to me.

Is it not ironic, that when there has been a big hoo-haa about South Dublin County Council working in conjunction with FixYourStreet to "respond" to complaints of potholes within 48 hours, that the half-wits of Dublin City Council are looking to actively restore road imperfections in the city, at considerable expense?  

Look DCC.  Don't bother on my account.  I will continue to slow down to a crawl for your speed bumps no matter what their state, before dropping down to first gear and revving my engine up to 7,200 RPM - engine howling like a diving Stuka -  in order to reach the next one rapidly before slamming on the brakes, therefore killing polar bears and annoying the local residents* in the process. 

With feet hammering on the pedals like an especially manic Michael Flatley, I will employ said tactic simply to shake off the driver up my arse who goes over these things like they don't exist... regardless of their condition.

So save yourselves - or us, to be accurate - a bit of money and just let them erode.

* Apologies to the polar bears.

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Wednesday, 3 August 2011

David Norris quits the presidential race

The whole David Norris business is a disappointment, in so many ways.

Disappointing, for one, as it will come as a godsend to those who were opposed to an openly gay man standing for the Irish presidency.  Interestingly, however, despite Norris’s difficulty in getting the required nominations from his fellow politicians, he had been the public’s leading choice according to the polls.

The real problem occurred when it was revealed that  Norris wrote to an Israeli court in 1997, seeking clemency for an ex-partner who had had sex with a 15-year-old. I think the term is known as statutory rape, the reasoning being that a minor is not legally at an age to consent to sex.

Norris, it seemed, wanted to help his ex-partner in some way. I suppose we would all try to help someone we cared about no matter what they had been accused of – but to do so on Government headed paper was his big mistake.

Having said that, Fintan O’Toole, writing in yesterday’s Irish Times, brought attention to the culture of politicians interceding on behalf of constituents in similar serious matters.

For instance, he cites a case in 2002 “when it emerged that junior minister Bobby Molloy  intervened in a much more serious way on behalf of a child rapist, Patrick Naughton, the then Taoiseach, Bertie Ahern, defended him on the basis of ‘that’s what politicians do. A TD is a public representative and you make representations’

That’s the kind of attitude we expect from Fianna Fail. And there’s the rub… we expect those who are not from that dreadful party to have higher standards. Norris does, I am sure, have higher standards. I think he just got personally caught up in events.

Once this story broke from all those years ago, however, his presidential ambitions were always going to be distinctly past tense.

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